For a couple of days the question "What's a Hurdy-gurdy?" has been
discussed in MMD. Brian Thornton wrote in 020323 MMDigest:
> It's basic construction is that of a bowed instrument.
> A wooden wheel, turned by a crank, bows the strings from
> underneath. Two sets of strings on the side of the wheel
> are drones and another set, on top, are the chanters which
> are fretted by rows of buttons along the side.
That's all correct, but one thing -- maybe the most important one,
concerning the specific sound of this instrument -- is missing: One
string is the so-called Schnarrsaite which works in conjunction
with the Schnarrsteg.
Now my problem is these very specific German words "Schnarrsaite"
(French "trompette") and "Schnarrsteg" (French "trompillon" or "chien")
which I don't feel able to translate into the English language.
A verbal translation could be "rattle string" and "rattle hammer".
I hope that there will be one of the MMD readers (most probably Brian
Thornton ) who knows the English expressions for these characteristic
components of the hurdy-gurdy, the function of which I am going to
The Schnarrsaite, a string bowed by the wooden wheel same as the
other strings, is loosely connected with the movable Schnarrsteg.
When the Schnarrsaite is bowed, the Schnarrsteg starts oscillating
and knocks against the top of the hurdy-gurdy's body at a low
frequency. This oscillation starts with a high amplitude which goes
down rapidly when the bowing wheel is turned continuously.
The skill to play the hurdy-gurdy the right artistic way is, not to
turn the wheel continuously but "to beat the rhythm" with the wheel.
This will produce a very specific sound and underlines the rhythm of
the melody played.
Sorry that I can not attach an audio example. I have a hurdy-gurdy in
my collection but I can't play it "the right artistic way". Sorry!
For compensation, I am going to write another posting with a picture
attached, concerning a really rare and unknown "semi-mechanical bowed
music instrument" in my collection: Le monocorde of V.-J. Poussot.
Greetings from Bavaria
[ Alden and Cali Hackmann of Olympic Musical Instruments build the
[ hurdy-gurdy for aficionados, and they related the German and English
[ terms for you. Die Schnarrsaite is the "drone string". Der
[ Schnarrsteg ("the snoring bridge"!) is the "buzzing bridge", sometimes
[ also called "the dog" after the French word "chein".
[ Alden says the unison chanter strings play the melody, and the others
[ are drones: trompette, mouche, petit bourdon, gros bourdon. Cali
[ notes that nowadays most hurdy-gurdy players use the French terms, and
[ that a summer festival in France draws more than 50,000 hurdy-gurdy
[ fans! Visit their web site at http://www.hurdygurdy.com/hg/hghome.html
[ and the fine bibliography at http://www.hurdygurdy.com/hg/biblio.html
[ Jan Kijlstra writes: "I would suggest to use the MMD Archives; much
[ about the answer to the question "What's a hurdy-gurdy" can be found
[ there." See http://mmd.foxtail.com/Archives/KWIC/H/hurdy_gurdy.html
[ -- Robbie